KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kelvin Herrera was pitching for the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Triple-A championship game Tuesday night. He had a wake-up call Wednesday at 4:15 a.m., hopped on a plane in New Mexico and was in Kansas City by mid-morning.
He made his big league debut against Detroit on Wednesday night, about 24 hours later, and it turned into a relief performance he likely won't forget.
Herrera plunked the first batter he faced, allowed him to score the go-ahead run moments later, and then served up Don Kelly's two-run homer in the Royals' 6-3 loss to the Tigers.
"It's not what I was expecting. I was just trying to do my job," said Herrera, who admitted to being a little bit nervous. "It's my first time. I've got to do more than that."
Billy Butler returned from a bout with the flu to have a pair of hits and drive in a run, and Jeff Francoeur had the only other RBI for Kansas City, which went 40-41 at Kauffman Stadium. A victory would have given the Royals a winning home record for the first time since 2000.
"Herrera threw the ball OK," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "A little nerves, I think."
Herrera began the season at Class-A Wilmington, moved up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and finished the season with Omaha, dominating at every stop. He wound up going a combined 7-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 45 minor league games.
But there's a difference between the minors and the big leagues.
"He's a kid that comes highly touted," Yost said, "and we wanted to give him an opportunity to win his first major league game in a tie game, and it just didn't work out that way."
Victor Martinez drove in three runs for Detroit, Doug Fister (10-13) yielded two hits over three shutout innings of relief, and Jose Valverde pitched the ninth to remain perfect in 47 save chances.
Detroit struck first when Felipe Paulino walked Austin Jackson to lead off the game. The speedy Tigers outfielder stole second base easily and then scored on Martinez's single.
Kansas City answered in the bottom half of the first with RBI doubles by Butler and Francoeur.
Butler's double was his 40th of the season, making Kansas City only the fourth franchise in major league history with four players with that many doubles. The other teams to accomplish the feat were the 2006 Rangers, the '32 Phillies and the '29 Tigers.
Martinez tied the game with an RBI groundout in the fifth.
The Royals pulled back ahead in the sixth when Melky Cabrera led off with a double. Butler singled to right field moments later, and Raburn — who had entered the game as a pinch hitter in the top of the inning — couldn't get a handle on the ball. His error allowed Cabrera to scamper home.
Everything unraveled for the Royals when Herrera entered the game in the eighth inning.
He struck Raburn, who came around to score the go-ahead run, Kelly went deep and the Tigers finished up for their 27th win in their last 40 games away from Comerica Park.
"It's awesome. We came out and played hard, played 100 percent," Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera said. "It's going to be nice going home and getting ready for the playoffs."
Notes: Tigers starter Max Scherzer and Royals starter Felipe Paulino each allowed two runs over five innings. ... The other Royals with at least 40 doubles this season are Francoeur, Cabrera and Alex Gordon. ... The Royals designated 1B Kila Ka'aihue for assignment to create roster space for Herrera. ... Detroit faces Baltimore in a four-game series beginning Thursday night. RHP Jacob Turner is on the mound for the Tigers. ... The Royals are off Thursday before facing the White Sox on Friday night. RHP Bruce Chen gets the start for Kansas City. ... The Royals finished the home schedule with 1,724,450 in paid attendance, an average of 21,290 per game.